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Poker News: MGM Online Receives NV Approval and more

by Haley Hintze


 MGM Online became the latest major Nevada casino entity to receive preliminary approval to offer online poker to its residents, passing a Nevada Gaming Commission suitability hearing at the start of November. The formal granting of the license is typically a formality and will likely occur later in November. MGM Online becomes the sixth Vegas-area casino brand to receive tentative approval, joining entities associated with South Point, Golden Nugget, Fertitta/UFC, Boyd Gaming, and ACEP (American Casino & Entertainment Properties, which owns the Stratosphere). Like Boyd, MGM Online has already contracted for software services from bwin.party, assuming the European poker giant is able to pass its own licensing hurdles.


 Caesars Interactive, awaiting its own suitability hearings before the Nevada Gaming Commission, has announced a deal with UK-based Optimal Payments to provide a suite of gateway services related to online payment processing. Optimal is the current iteration of the online processing firm once known as NETeller, which ran afoul of US banking laws and was targeted by seizures in 2007. NETeller subsequently departed the US market, reorganized its operations and relocated from Canada to the UK, and has also undergone two name changes, first to Neovia, and more recently, in 2011, to Optimal Payments. Optimal still uses the NETeller and NetBanx brand names.


 Online poker players outside the United States were reunited with a familiar brand on November 6th when Full Tilt Poker, now owned by former chief rival PokerStars, opened its doors. The original FTP collapsed in the wake of the Black Friday indictments, when a shortfall of more than $300 million in unsegregated player deposits was revealed. The new Full Tilt immediately jumped to the No. 2 spot in worldwide traffic, buoyed by the return of more than $184 million to those rest-of-world players. In addition to the United States, players from a handful of other countries, including France, Spain, and Belgium, are no longer able to play on the new Full Tilt.


 A nun in northern New York State was charged with stealing roughly $128,000 from two rural Orleans County (NY) churches, which she then gambled away on casino visits. Sister Mary Ann Rapp faced felony grand larceny charges after allegedly misappropriating the funds from small churches in Holley and Kendall, roughly midway between Buffalo and Rochester. Buffalo Diocese officials referred the matter to Orleans County law enforcement after discovering the theft of parishioners’ contributions. Rapp, aged “about 50,” had previously received unspecified treatment for a gambling addiction, according to local reports.


 In separate communications to Congressional leaders, Massachusetts State Treasurer Steven Grossman and Kentucky Lottery President Arthur L. Gleason, Jr. expressed strong opposition to the proposed Reid-Kyl online-poker legislation asserted to be under consideration in Congress’s current lame-duck session. Grossman and Gleason, citing states’ rights concerns over gambling matters, joined the National Governors association in panning the proposed measure. The Reid-Kyl bill’s prospects were slightly buoyed when Republican Senator Dean Heller (NV), a bill supporter, narrowly topped Democratic challenger Shelley Berkley in a fierce Election Day battle. Heller had previously promised bill co-author Harry Reid 10 to 15 Republican votes in support of the measure, though the bill’s prospects remain uncertain. Reid-Kyl was also listed in a The Hill piece as one of 25 topics to receive lame-duck consideration.

 Veteran poker-industry writer/editor Haley Hintze is the author of an upcoming book on the Absolute Poker and UltimateBet online cheating scandals, to be released later this year.

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